Kelly’s nails scratched at her neck. Her pearl necklace rubbed against her soft skin. She smiled through her wrinkles at the people gathered below her. They were there for her. They wanted to hear her story.
She gulped and tapped the microphone four times. “Hello,” she said. Her voice came out old and coarse, unlike the story she wanted to tell. “Thank you all for being here tonight.”
Kelly gazed down at the front row and spied her husband, Jeremy. He waved up at her, and his eyes beamed with joy. He whispered with his lips, “I love you.”
“I want first to tell you the story of how I got these pearls,” Kelly said. “It’s a doozy.”
The room stayed silent. Her hands shook as she reached for the water on the rostrum. She licked her dry lips and gulped down a sip of water. Her opening line hadn’t gone as well as she thought. Kelly gripped the sides of the wooden rostrum and stared beyond the audience.
“It was forty years ago,” she said. “All I had was my mother’s silver box filled with her jewelry and my father’s watch. That’s right, the very watch my husband wears today.”
Murmurs echoed through the room. Kelly looked down at Jeremy, who gazed up with unending encouragement. She had to do this. They paid to listen to her.
“I needed the pearls to create a statement, an image if you like. I wanted to seem powerful and white.”
The crowd gasped as one. Kelly knew her purpose here. She knew what those pearls meant. She knew what the silver box bought her. She unhooked the microphone from its stand and walked out from behind the rostrum.
“You see, I was born at a time when people of colour didn’t matter. Racism divided the country. I was born into a plague of hate and that hate hasn’t ended. And here I stand.”
Her heart raced. Kelly’s eyes watered. She couldn’t stop now. She wouldn’t stop now. Her face flushed, and she gazed down at her husband again.
“That silver box brought me status. Ten years later I was wealthy and happy, all because of this pearl necklace. What about all the other black people? What happened to them? Did they have the same box that I had to buy my future?”
Kelly sauntered back to the rostrum and hooked the microphone back into place. She smiled through her grim face and gazed down at a face in the middle of the audience.
“Black lives matter. That’s what counts for me now. I’m forced to choose sides. I choose the side of equal lives. I choose to support those who are beaten and pushed down by the hands of those who would tower above them.”
She felt around the back of her pearl necklace and found the clasp. Kelly unhooked the clasp. She held the necklace between her index finger and thumb. Her fingers rubbed against the smooth surface of the pearl.
“I can’t stand by idly anymore. I betrayed you once. I can’t do it again. I can’t watch innocent people be persecuted by the colour of their skin.”
A tear fell from her eye onto the pearl necklace.
“I’m going to sell this pearl necklace, sell what my mother gave to me. The silver box is going to open. It’s going to be a new beginning. We can heal our country with love, not hate.”
The audience rose from their seats. Kelly smiled. Her heart fluttered. She gazed down at her husband who silently nodded to her.
“Help me start a new tomorrow.”
Cheers erupted like a Friday night football game. Her message got through. She beckoned her husband up. He stumbled up the stairs and took off his watch. He flashed it between his fingers, and the crowd’s cheers grew louder.
Tomorrow will be a better day, Kelly thought.
Tomorrow we mend our country.
Originally posted on The Weekly Knob.